DESCRIBE THE USE OF BUSINESS PLAN
A business plan is a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. It may also contain background information about the organization or team attempting to reach those goals. Business plans may target changes in perception and branding by the customer, client, taxpayer, or larger community. When the existing business is to assume a major change or when planning a new venture, a 3 to 5 year business plan is required, since investors will look for their investment return in that timeframe.
Business plans may be internally or externally focused. Externally focused plans target goals that are important to external stakeholders, particularly financial stakeholders. They typically have detailed information about the organization or team attempting to reach the goals. With for-profit entities, external stakeholders include investors and customers. External stake-holders of non-profits include donors and the clients of the non-profit’s services. For government agencies, external stakeholders include tax-payers, higher-level government agencies, and international lending bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, various economic agencies of the United Nations, and development banks.
Internally focused business plans target intermediate goals required to reach the external goals. They may cover the development of a new product, a new service, a new IT system, a restructuring of finance, the refurbishing of a factory or a restructuring of the organization. An internal business plan is often developed in conjunction with a balanced scorecard or a list of critical success factors. This allows success of the plan to be measured using non-financial measures. Business plans that identify and target internal goals, but provide only general guidance on how they will be met are called strategic plans.
Operational plans describe the goals of an internal organization, working group or department. Project plans, sometimes known as project frameworks, describe the goals of a particular project. They may also address the project’s place within the organization’s larger strategic goals.
Business plans are decision-making tools. The content and format of the business plan is determined by the goals and audience. For example, a business plan for a non-profit might discuss the fit between the business plan and the organization’s mission. Banks are quite concerned about defaults, so a business plan for a bank loan will build a convincing case for the organization’s ability to repay the loan. Venture capitalists are primarily concerned about initial investment, feasibility, and exit valuation. A business plan for a project requiring equity financing will need to explain why current resources, upcoming growth opportunities, and sustainable competitive advantage will lead to a high exit valuation.
Preparing a business plan draws on a wide range of knowledge from many different business disciplines: finance, human resource management, intellectual property management, supply chain management, operations management, and marketing, among others. It can be helpful to view the business plan as a collection of sub-plans, one for each of the main business disciplines.
“… a good business plan can help to make a good business credible, understandable, and attractive to someone who is unfamiliar with the business. Writing a good business plan can’t guarantee success, but it can go a long way toward reducing the odds of failure.”
The format of a business plan depends on its presentation context. It is common for businesses, especially start-ups, to have three or four formats for the same business plan.
An “elevator pitch” is a short summary of the plan’s executive summary. This is often used as a teaser to awaken the interest of potential investors, customers, or strategic partners.
A pitch deck is a slide show and oral presentation that is meant to trigger discussion and interest potential investors in reading the written presentation. The content of the presentation is usually limited to the executive summary and a few key graphs showing financial trends and key decision making benchmarks. If a new product is being proposed and time permits, a demonstration of the product may be included.
A written presentation for external stakeholders is a detailed, well written, and pleasingly formatted plan targeted at external stakeholders.
An internal operational plan is a detailed plan describing planning details that are needed by management but may not be of interest to external stakeholders. Such plans have a somewhat higher degree of candor and informality than the version targeted at external stakeholders and others.
Typical structure for a business plan for a start up venture
• cover page and table of contents
• executive summary
• mission statement
• business description
• business environment analysis
• SWOT analysis
• industry background
• competitor analysis
• market analysis
• marketing plan
• operations plan
• management summary
• financial plan
• attachments and milestones
Typical questions addressed by a business plan for a start up venture
• What problem does the company’s product or service solve? What niche will it fill?
• What is the company’s solution to the problem?
• Who are the company’s customers, and how will the company market and sell its products to them?
• What is the size of the market for this solution?
• What is the business model for the business (how will it make money)?
• Who are the competitors and how will the company maintain a competitive advantage?
• How does the company plan to manage its operations as it grows?
• Who will run the company and what makes them qualified to do so?
• What are the risks and threats confronting the business, and what can be done to mitigate them?
• What are the company’s capital and resource requirements?
• What are the company’s historical and projected financial statements
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE & PURPOSE OF A BUSINESS PLAN
Business plans are documents used for planning out specific details about your business. They can range in size from a simple few sentences to more than 100 pages with formal sections, a table of contents and a title page. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, typical business plans average 15 to 20 pages. Comprehensive business plans have three sections–business concept, marketplace and financial–and these are broken down into seven components that include the overview or summary of the plan, a description of the business, market strategies, competition analysis, design and development, operations and management, and financial information. Even small one-page business plans have importance and purpose for the success of the business however.
The primary purpose of a business plan is to define what the business is or what it intends to be over time. Clarifying the purpose and direction of your business allows you to understand what needs to be done for forward movement. Clarifying can consist of a simple description of your business and its products or services, or it can specify the exact product lines and services you’ll offer, as well as a detailed description of your ideal customer.
Businesses evolve and adapt over time, and factoring future growth and direction into the business plan can be an effective way to plan for changes in the market, growing or slowing trends, and new innovations or directions to take as the company grows. Although clarifying direction in the business plan lets you know where you’re starting, future vision allows you to have goals to reach for.
The Small Business Administration states, “The development of a comprehensive business plan shows whether or not a business has the potential to make a profit.” By putting statistics, facts, figures and detailed plans in writing, a new business has a better chance of attracting investors to provide the capital needed for getting started.
Attract Team Members
Business plans can be designed as a sale tool to attract partners, secure supplier accounts and attract executive level employees into the new venture. Business plans can be shared with the executive candidates or desired partners to help convince them of the potential for the business, and persuade them to join the team.
A business plan conveys the organizational structure of your business, including titles of directors or officers and their individual duties. It also acts as a management tool that can be referred to regularly to ensure the business is on course with meeting goals, sales targets or operational milestones.
WHAT IS A BUSINESS PLAN USED FOR
A business plan is a tool with three basic purposes: communication, management, and planning.
As a communication tool, it is used to attract investment capital, secure loans, convince workers to hire on, and assist in attracting strategic business partners. The development of a comprehensive business plan shows whether or not a business has the potential to make a profit. It requires a realistic look at almost every phase of business and allows you to show that you have worked out all the problems and decided on potential alternatives before actually launching your business.
As a management tool, the business plan helps you track, monitor and evaluate your progress. The business plan is a living document that you will modify as you gain knowledge and experience. By using your business plan to establish timelines and milestones, you can gauge your progress and compare your projections to actual accomplishments.
As a planning tool, the business plan guides you through the various phases of your business. A thoughtful plan will help identify roadblocks and obstacles so that you can avoid them and establish alternatives. Many business owners share their business plans with their employees to foster a broader understanding of where the business is going.
REVISING THE BUSINESS PLAN
Cost overruns and revenue shortfalls
Cost and revenue estimates are central to any business plan for deciding the viability of the planned venture. But costs are often underestimated and revenues overestimated resulting in later cost overruns, revenue shortfalls, and possibly non-viability. During the dot-com bubble 1997-2001 this was a problem for many technology start-ups. Reference class forecasting has been developed to reduce the risks of cost overruns and revenue shortfalls and thus generate more accurate business plans
Legal and liability issues
An externally targeted business plan should list all legal concerns and financial liabilities that might negatively affect investors. Depending on the amount of funds being raised and the audience to whom the plan is presented, failure to do this may have severe legal consequences.
Limitations on content and audience
Non disclosure agreements (NDAs) with third parties, non-compete agreements, conflicts of interest, privacy concerns, and the protection of one’s trade secrets may severely limit the audience to which one might show the business plan. Alternatively, they may require each party receiving the business plan to sign a contract accepting special clauses and conditions.
This situation is complicated by the fact that many venture capitalists will refuse to sign an NDA before looking at a business plan, lest it put them in the untenable position of looking at two independently developed look-alike business plans, both claiming originality. In such situations one may need to develop two versions of the business plan: a stripped down plan that can be used to develop a relationship and a detail plan that is only shown when investors have sufficient interest and trust to sign an NDA.
Open business plans
Traditionally business plans have been highly confidential and quite limited in audience. The business plan itself is generally regarded as secret. However, the emergence of free software and open source has opened the model and made the notion of an open business plan possible.
An open business plan is a business plan with unlimited audience. The business plan is typically web published and made available to all.
In the free software and open source business model, trade secrets, copyright and patents can no longer be used as effective locking mechanisms to provide sustainable advantages to a particular business and therefore a secret business plan is less relevant in those models.
o Business plans are used in some primary and secondary programs to teach economic principles.
o Wikiversity has a Lunar Boom Town project where students of all ages can collaborate with designing and revising business models and practice evaluating them to learn practical business planning techniques and methodology
Fundraising is the primary purpose for many business plans, since they are related to the inherent probable success/failure of the company risk.
o Angel investors
o Business loans
o Startup company funding
o Venture capital
• Internal use
o Management by objectives (MBO) is a process of agreeing upon objectives (as can be detailed within business plans) within an organization so that management and employees agree to the objectives and understand what they are in the organization.
o Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people. Business plans can help decision makers see how specific projects relate to the organization’s strategic plan.
o Total quality management (TQM) is a business management strategy aimed at embedding awareness of quality in all organizational processes. TQM has been widely used in manufacturing, education, call centers, government, and service industries, as well as NASA space and science programs.
The business plan is the subject of many satires. Satires are used both to express cynicism about business plans and as an educational tool to improve the quality of business plans. For example,
• In his presentation, Five Criteria For a Successful Business Plan in Biotech, Dr. Roger Bernier, uses Dilbert comic strips to remind people what not to do when researching and writing a business plan for a biotech start-up.
• Selena Maranjian’s “Fool on the Hill” article in the The Motley Fool, “‘South Park’s’ Investing Lesson” (November 8, 2001), references the “Underpants Gnomes” to illustrate the fallacy of focusing on goals without a clear implementation strategy. That “Gnomes” episode satirizes the business plans of the Dot-com era.
Nearly all business experts agree on one thing: the importance of drafting a business plan. Yet plenty of companies plunge into the competitive arena without a formal plan. Why? We’ve heard plenty of excuses posing as reasons.
A lot of new businesses are carried away and figure their passion and optimism are enough to build a successful company. Others say they were just too busy to develop a formal business plan. But operating without a plan can prove even more time-consuming in the long run.
Pinson, Linda. (2004). Anatomy of a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step
Guide to Building a Business and Securing Your Company’s Future (6th Edition). Page 20. Dearborn Trade: Chicago, USA.
Small Business Notes business plan outline for small business
Tasmanian government project management knowledge base
government project plan Archived June 22, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
Eric S. Siegel, Brian R. Ford, Jay M. Bornstein (1993), ‘The Ernst &
Young Business Plan Guide’ (New York: John Wiley and Sons) ISBN 0-471-57826-6
Creating a Business Plan: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges.
United States: Harvard Business School. 2007. p. 7. ISBN 1422118851.
“Cayenne Consultng LLC Ten Big Questions” (PDF). ‘Cayenne
Consultng LLC’. Cayenne Consultng LLC. 2015-03-28. Retrieved 2015-03-28.
“Pennsylvania Business Plan Competition”. Economic Spa.
competition intended to teach economic principles to K-12 students
Bernier, Ph.D., P.Ag., Roger Laurent. Five Criteria For a Successful Business Plan in Biotech. Archived from the original on January 6, 2012.
Maranjian, Selena (November 8, 2001). “‘South Park’s’ Investing Lesson”. The Motley Fool.